Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Adv #7 Continued: Mas Football, Mendoza, Valpo and an endless string of barbeques!

Yep, I’m still here in Chile and living a life full of motorcycle riding, barbeques, and hanging out with friends I’ve been making along the way. Should I be embarrassed to say I’ve lived in the same hostal now for almost 3 months? Probably not, cause it was actually part of my plan once I knew I wanted to stay in Chile. The hostal has just been such a great way to meet people and always have something going on….I’m meeting people from all over the world every day, and even the occasional American Gringo here and there. It’s pretty cheap, quite central here in Santiago, and I’m not locked into any kind of a lease…..so I can leave at any time. Perfect!

On the flip-side, this might be an “over-indulgence” in freedom and the lifestyle described above, and it has me desiring some sort of vocation down here. I want the experience of working outside the U.S., the chance to do something new, and of course, it’d be nice to put some money back in the pocket for a change. Finding that job continues to be a bit of a struggle though for a few reasons: Unemployment here is listed at 12% right now, many Chileans need work, and businesses everywhere are as tight as I hear they are in the U.S. Also, my Spanish is coming along….but it's still a real struggle to understand what Chileans say to me at full speed. (Basically, I should only work in the English-speaking-only category until my Spanish is better.) And of course, it’s the off-season for tourism with winter settling in, so I might have to go way up to Peru or something to find work like that.

Yada, yada, yada…..it’s not a major issue if I don’t find work, as I’ve been living extremely cheap for the past 11 months on the road. (That’s right, it’s almost a year now!) I’ll continue to look for work, or maybe I’ll just have to find something I can do as a volunteer along the way.

As for the fun stuff: Well, I went to see another football match a few weeks back with the staff here at the hostal. Universidad de Chile vs. Gremio, a team from Brazil. Many of my photos didn’t turn out, but as usual the fan intensity is something remarkable, and you can see all the flares that they light up during the game and they yell “Atención Chilenos de Corazón… CEACHI!” ….. CHI!........“LE!” …… LE!..... CHI – CHI - CHI! ..... LE – LE - LE! ….. VI - VA CHI -LE!!!

It’s easy to get into the spirit if living in Chile as the people are just great, and so welcoming in every way. But having seen two matches now at Estadio Nacional, you can imagine how disappointing it is to not even have seen a Chilean team score a goal yet! (Two games, 0-0, and 0-2 for the Chilean teams.) At this last match, we watched the small section of Brazillian fans go nuts over their 2 scores. Good thing for their sake those 100 Gremio fans had a small section of seating reserved and gated off specifically for them with armed security guards all around.

Gotta get out of the city sometimes, right? I’d been talking with Jorge and the guys about a weekend trip to Mendoza, Argentina, and when the guys got done with work on April 17th, our group of 7 riders headed out to cross the Andes again. Much further north than my previous passage to Argentina, new terrain and places to see!
A late start had us riding in darkness for the entire ride there, but with only the moonlight I could still see the beauty people had been describing in this beautiful trip up over the Andes. Up at elevation in very cold temperatures, Jorge’s clutch fluid ran empty from some leak that had developed. We refilled it a couple of times and it just ran empty so quick….eventually, he decided he’d turn around and head back to Santiago, knowing that the chances of catching parts or service in Mendoza on a Saturday were slim to none.

So after all the customs paperwork (paperwork I’ve probably spent 6 entire days of my life doing throughout this adventure) we hustled through the mountains on totally remote country roads, stopping only for dinner and some caffeine so we could arrive safely at 4:30am on Saturday. At that point, going straight to bed seems silly, right? We’d seen all the pubs still open as we searched for our hotel, so by about 5:15am, we were out at a patio-side pub in Mendoza with beers in front of us. Correction: We had “FanSchops” in front of us. It’s very Chileno…but they mix Fanta orange soda with beer or “schop,” making “FanSchop.” Even though I'd probably get my butt kicked around Milwaukee for desecrating a beer this way, I’ll still admit….I like FanSchop. In just the right ratio (for me about 9:1) it’s outstanding! (Hey, we've all been putting lemon and orange wedges in our beers for years now.)

Our plans to visit some thermal springs and make a barbeque on Saturday were squelched by some late sleeping. (Uh, we went to bed about 8:30am, along with most of the other Argentinians it seemed.) So instead of the springs, we just hopped around town on the motorcycles, stopping here and there, looking and laughing at stuff. One reason for stopping you can see below. Yea, the photo opportunity was good above…but the scenery in the background (a field hockey match with some local talent) needed some fan support. We were glad to assist.

Just a bit further down the road then, we came across this BMX racing track, with all the local kids and some incredible athletes whipping around the track and giving us something to watch for a couple of hours.

Of course Saturday night was spent out on the town in Mendoza (no pics though) before the beautiful ride home on Sunday. This was the scenery I’d missed on Friday because we were in the dark! Not a minute of the ride disappointed us, nor did the asado/barbeque we stopped for on the way back in the tiny town of Uspallata, Argentina. (Note in the one below those are clouds, not snow!)

Below, Roger carves up a bit of lunch.

I’d hoped to see the entire ride on the way back to Santiago in the daylight, but the 2-hour line of cars at the border crossing kept us there far longer than we’d hoped. That’s alright though, cause there were plenty of other motorcyclists and Saint Bernards to hang out with while we waited, and passed time waiting for our paperwork.

I took this pic of my helmet next to the dog’s head just to show how big its head was. HUGE!

Remember Michelle and Carlos and the family from when I first arrived in Chile? Well somehow, I had not been back to see them in almost 2 months, so the Saturday following Mendoza seemed the perfect time. Along with Tio Leo, we had the chance to walk the streets of Valparaiso a bit, meet Michelle and Carlos’s new puppy, and of course….a family barbeque was inevitable! And wow, can Tio Leo cook…..

(Above, Carlos's Mom Trinidad, Uncle Manuel, Aunt Erica, and Grandma.)

The next day I had to skip another barbeque they wanted to have (seafood this time) because I needed to get back to Santiago for a barbeque I was supposed to go to. Instead of the straight highway right back to Santiago though, I looked at the map and spotted a couple of small towns along the Pacific coast I’d never seen before, and decided I’d take the “scenic” route back instead of the usual.

So I was riding through this small town of Algarrobo, getting hungry and looking for the right place to grab an empanada. Just when I spotted a small restaurant with pollo empanadas on the menu, I noticed this familiar looking motorcycle parked out front that looked just like Roger’s bike.... the same Roger you see in the Mendoza pics above and from previous posts. I parked and looked more closely at all the scratches and broken parts on the bike (sorry buddy, had to) and sure enough….it was definitely Roger’s bike!
I knew Roger owned a business, but I had no idea where it was. So there was my buddy inside the store doing some routine check-up stuff on his machines. (It’s a restaurant/arcade business right on the beach.) What are the chances….really? He sure was surprised to hear my squeaky motorcyle boots walk in behind him.

To further the coincidence…who do you think was sleeping in on a Sunday morning in his family’s weekend house….just behind Roger’s restaurant? You bet…..Jorge was there, and just waking up as we rode over to say hi and surprise him.
So this whole thing immediately led us to another barbeque that was being held in honor of one of their friend’s birthdays. I canceled on the first one and went with the guys to their friend’s house near the beach.

Outside of these funny “run-ins,” I can’t even begin to tell you how many other similar things have happened to me here in Chile. It’s always “I know somebody that knows somebody who knows somebody,” or I meet a guy just chatting at a motorcycle shop one day…..and then a month later just by chance, find out that I just met his dad, too. For a country of 17 million people as geographically long as the U.S. is wide, it sure does seem like a small place sometimes.

Well, that’s a bit of an update on some of the fun I’m running across down here. If you’re really into this blog, be sure to take a look back at some of the first posts I made from the start of my trip across the U.S., and my first couple of months with Suntrek. Friends have sent me pictures from many of these adventures so I’ve added a bunch of things and of course some text as well.

More from Forrest Gump here in Chile soon!